June 7, 2009 / Holy Trinity Sunday / Message by: Rev. Carol Kniseley / John 3: 1-17
If there is one thing I love…it’s a good mystery. And today, I must say, the church calendar has obliged us with a real winner. Even if Sherlock Holmes, himself was on the case, I dare say that even he would not be able to solve this one. What we are talking about is the fact that today is Holy Trinity Sunday. A day specifically set aside for us to once again set our sights on the doctrine of the Trinity…in hopes of gaining a little more insight into the mystery of the godhead. We begin where we always begin, with unanswered questions. Why does one God…need three names? How does one God inhabit three forms? How can God be both three and one all at the same time?
Good questions…to a very difficult reality. There are, of course, orthodox answers to all of these questions. Yet…I have to admit…I have never fully been able to understand any of them except those attempts that we make at explaining such a phenomenon to our children. How many of us at one time or another, has at least been introduced to the concept of God…
as a three leaf clover?
Or God…as three different forms of water (liquid…ice…and steam)?
Or God…as the apple (peeling…apple pulp…and core)?
All serving to once again prove how futile our attempts have been at describing something that simply can not be adequately described.
Perhaps that is why…when I was introduced to the #1 New York Times Bestseller entitled ‘The Shack’…I had high hopes that a breakthrough was in sight. I was not disappointed. If you’ve ever wondered what God looks like…there are plenty of stereo types that one can draw from. None of which were used by the author of The Shack, William Paul Young. Without giving too much of the story line away, I think it would be safe to introduce the primary characters as they first appeared in the book itself.
The setting takes place in an abandoned old shack…somewhere in the middle of nowhere…when the lead character, Mack, finds himself face to face with three very distinct persons…all claiming to be God. His first encounter is with a rather large beaming African-American woman who literally sweeps him off of his feet with a big ole bear hug the first time that she lays eyes on him. Her name…is Papa, which should tell us something about our preconceived notions about “God” right off the bat.
If anyone has ever grown up with a less than ideal father figure to look up to…then perhaps we can begin to appreciate the fact that God can, and does, appear to us in just about any form imaginable. And yet…Biblically, I don’t believe that it is by coincidence that when Jesus referred to God…as in praying to God…he, himself, always addressed God...as Abba (translated in English to be…Daddy). Showing us, once again, how intimate the relationship was between God the Father…and Jesus, God’s only Son. Speaking of which…in ‘The Shack’…Jesus comes across as being as human and as likable a guy as you’d ever want to know, even being a bit clumsy when it came to carrying dishes. If there is anything that we know for sure about Jesus…as he related to the godhead…it is the fact that he was 100% human to the core.
Yet, it was Emmanuel (God with us) in the person of Jesus…whom God sent into the world not to condemn the world, but to save it. What I was able to get my mind’s eye around, probably for the very first time, was this “relationship” that is so critical when it comes to understanding the Trinity. To give us an example, the first time that Mack looked down and saw identical scars in both Jesus’ wrists…and in Papa’s...he began to put together the truth of what Papa meant when she said:
“Don’t ever think that what my son chose to do didn’t cost us dearly.
Love always leaves a significant mark,” she stated softly and gently. “We were there…together.”
Which brings us to the third person in this triad, also known as…Sarayu…the Spirit of God. Again, from The Shack, Jesus states that his purpose from the beginning was to live in us and us in him. To which Mack replies:
“Wait, wait. Wait a minute. How can this happen? If you’re still fully human how can you be inside of me?”
To which Jesus replies: “Astounding, isn’t it? It’s Papa’s miracle. It is the power of Sarayu, my Spirit, the Spirit of God who restores the union that was lost so long ago. Me? I choose to live moment by moment fully human. I am fully God, but I am human to the core. Like I said, it’s Papa’s miracle.”
The point of all of this is simple. God comes to us in many and very diverse ways, of which we may or may not be open to seeing…hearing…or even feeling.
Some days, God comes as a judge, walking through our lives wearing white gloves and exposing all of the messes we have made.
Some days, God comes as a Shepherd, fending off our enemies and feeding us by hand.
On other days, God comes as a whirl-wind who blows all of our certainties right out the window.
Other days, God comes as a brooding hen who hides us in the shelter of her wings.
Meaning…if we were to name all of the ways God comes to us, the list would go on forever. Which is not a bad place to start…IF we are serious about going face to face with God. After all…according to Mack…God is many…while at the same time…God is one. It’s Biblical. It’s Papa’s miracle…if ever there was one…and that’s all I have to say about that. Read ‘The Shack.’ Amen